BY RON NETSKY
I guess there’s something positive about being in your 80s and having someone call you immature. I’m sorry, but that was my impression of legendary jazz drummer Roy Haynes at Kilbourn Hall Friday night. He joked around, tap danced twice, and seemed to be seriously trying to pick up a woman in the audience. Even his “Fountain of Youth” band mates seemed weary of his silliness.
But when he sat down at the drum set he was, after all, Roy Haynes. He played a fine solo, most of which took place off of the drumheads and on the surrounding metal. And he was really at home on bebop tunes like “Milestones,” the kind of songs on which he forged his reputation. All of the members of his young band — Martin Bejerano, piano; Jaleel Shaw, saxophone; and David Wong, bass — played excellent solos.
Jean-Michel Pilc also rambled at his Hatch Hall concert, but did it with his hands gliding across the piano keyboard. Pilc played a stream-of-conscious set full of snippets of jazz standards like “All The Things You Are,” “My Romance,” and “I Get Along Without You Very Well” surrounded by impressionistic improvisation. It was as if jazz is a flowing continuum with one tune growing out of another and, in a way, it is. A little Gershwin here, a little Monk there; Pilc seemed to be saying it’s all shaped from the same clay.
At Christ Church the Orlando LeFleming Trio put on the most subtle show I’ve seen so far at the festival. The sad thing is, by day eight, a lot of people are jaded by too much impressive music and the attitude seems to be “show me something new.” So, during this beautiful set, three quarters of the audience left.
LeFleming is an excellent up-and-coming bassist. He’s also a fine bandleader in terms of arrangements and his choice of band mates. On guitar was Lage Lund, whose sound is absolutely wondrous. And on saxophone was Will Vinson, another great young player. On tunes like “Dear Lord,” one of John Coltrane’s most beautiful ballads, Lund’s gorgeous playing, Vinson’s sinuous sound, and LeFleming’s sturdy anchoring made for a dream-like sound in a perfect setting (even for an atheist). Too bad people didn’t have the patience for it.
I ended the night with The Music of Gil Evans with Ryan Truesdell at Montage. Truesdell led the young musicians from the Eastman School of Music in a concert of early arrangements by arguably the greatest arranger in jazz history, Gil Evans. Somehow the 20 musicians of this really big band, plus Truesdell, fit on the Montage stage. And, despite noise from the bar, they sounded great.
On a range of tunes, from “Just One Of Those Things” to “Struttin’ With Some Barbeque,” Evans’ arrangements were gems. No one was ever more elegant or varied in his voicings of parts to back up and accent the work of soloists. With its lush harmonies and beautiful melodies, the most sublime arrangement of the night was Evans’ “Blues For Pablo.”
On the final night of the festival I’ll be starting with guitarist/singer Raul Midon at Kilbourn Hall. Then I’ll hear the excellent pianist Joanne Brackeen at Hatch Recital Hall and the superb clarinetist Arun Ghosh’s Quintet at Christ Church. How will you wrap up the 2012 edition of XRIJF?